In 2014, Seattle theater thought big and lived large.
It was a year of meaningful epics: Intiman Theatre’s vital 20th anniversary revival of Tony Kushner’s marathon, “Angels in America.” A citywide homage to the works of watershed Irish playwright Samuel Beckett.
Book-It Rep’s fulfilling five-hour dramatization of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” And topping it all off, Robert Schenkkan’s two-part magnum opus on Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, an artistic and box-office triumph for Seattle Repertory Theatre. (Tragically, respected Rep artistic director Jerry Manning didn’t live to see it. His death in April was a great loss for the theater community.)
Also in 2014, Seattle staged many contemporary plays by women — just because there are so many good ones out there.
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And promisingly, a new generation of theater leaders is emerging here. The well-regarded Braden Abraham replaced Manning at the Rep. John Langs will head up ACT Theatre after Kurt Beattie retires in 2016. Mathew Wright now heads up ArtsWest.
So much locally honed talent, with such artistic ambition, bodes well for the future — a future that should include more inventively, rigorously offbeat original work too.
Now, drum roll please! The 2014 Footlight Awards for theatrical achievements, selected by Misha Berson and other Times critics, are as follows (names in no particular order):
Top mainstage plays: “All the Way,” “The Great Society” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Seattle Rep); “The Invisible Hand” and “The Price” (ACT); “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” (Book-It Rep); “Gidion’s Knot” (Seattle Public Theater); “Angels in America” (Intiman); “The Normal Heart” (Strawberry Theatre Workshop); and “The Mountaintop” (ArtsWest).
Top plays on smaller stages: “Black Like Us” (Brown Box/Annex Theatre); “Fast Company” (Pork-Filled Players); “Seascape” (Theater Schmeater); “A Lesson From Aloes” (Thalia’s Umbrella); and “Mary’s Wedding” (New Century Theatre Company).
Top world premieres: “Black Like Us” by Rachel Atkins. Runner-up: “Tails of Wasps” by Stephanie Timm, (New Century Theatre Company).
Marvelous musicals: “In the Heights” (Village Theatre); “Passing Strange” (Sidecountry Theatre); “Little Shop of Horrors” (ACT/5th Avenue Theatre); and “Once” (Paramount Theatre).
Flunked out: The new musical “The Tutor” (Village).
Fab family fare: “The Boy on the Edge of Everything”; “Dick Whittington and his Cat” and all else at Seattle Children’s Theatre, having a banner year; and “Mary Poppins” (Village).
Shining Shakespeare: “Hamlet” (New City Theatre); “Richard II” (Seattle Shakespeare Company); and a jukebox “Two Gentlemen of Verona” (Wooden O/Seattle Shakespeare).
Lear lapses: Two off-the mark “King Lears” from London’s Globe Theatre and Seattle Shakespeare.
Great performances: Jack Willis (“All the Way” and “Great Society”); Mary Ewald (“Hamlet”); Frank Boyd (“Kavalier & Clay”); Betsy Schwartz (“Tails of Wasps”); Elijah Alexander (“Invisible Hand”); Reginald A. Jackson (“The Mountaintop”); Tracy Michelle Hughes (“Pretty Fire,” Taproot Theatre); Suzanne Bouchard (“Julius Caesar,” Wooden O); Kimberly King (“Pride and Prejudice,” Book-It); Charles Leggett and Peter Silbert (“The Price”); Heather Hawkins (“Gidion’s Knot”); Samie Detzer (“Hunchback of Seville,” Washington Ensemble Theatre); Pamela Reed and R. Hamilton Wright (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”); Sarah Rose Davis (“Funny Girl,” Village); and Jessica Skerritt (“Little Shop of Horrors”).
Ensemble excellence: Casts of “All the Way”/ “Great Society”; “Angels in America”; and “In the Heights.”
Best acting debut: LeRoy Bell in “Passing Strange.”
Hardest working guy in Seattle theater: Actor Connor Toms, who was in “Frankenstein” and “Pride and Prejudice” (both Book-It Rep); “The Invisible Hand” (ACT Theatre); and “Importance of Being Earnest” (Seattle Shakespeare).
Breakthrough auto-bio bebop: Storyteller-musician Ahamefule Oluo’s exhilarating “Now I’m Fine” (On the Boards).
In a category of Its own: “The Vaudevillians” (Seattle Rep); “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” (Balagan Theatre); and UMO’s inventive Beckett homage, “Fail Better” (at ACT).
Dazzling designs: Among many: Sets by Brian Sidney Bembridge (“Mary’s Wedding”); Carey Wong (“Dick Whittington”); and Matthew Smucker (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”). Costumes by Sarah Burch Gordon (“Diana of Dobson’s” at Taproot) and Melanie Burgess (“Importance of Being Earnest”). Lighting by Andrew D. Smith (“Boy at the Edge of Everything”). Entire design team (“Frankenstein”).
Esteemed visitors: Joel de la Fuente in “Hold These Truths” and Japanese Noh actor Munenori Takeda (both at ACT); and Bill Irwin (Beckett Festival).
Debacle of the year: Debt-ridden Balagan Theatre’s demise.
Political furor of the year: Cultural and racial debates over Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of “The Mikado.”
Gals with swords: Mary Ewald as Hamlet, Wooden O’s all-female “Julius Caesar.”
Guys in high heels: Ryan McCabe’s swanky Joan Crawford in “Judy’s Scary Little Christmas” (ArtsWest).
Elements of style: “Importance of Being Earnest.”
Best new holiday romp: “Christmastown: A Holiday Noir” by Wayne Rawley (Seattle Public).
Best show title: “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie” (Room Escape Adventures).
Master magician: Voronin (“When Sparks Fly,” Teatro ZinZanni).
Spiffiest new lobby: Taproot Theatre.
Interactive snore: “Supraliminal” (Seattle Immersive Theatre).
Local treasure: Prolific scenic designer Carey Wong.
Vital new venues: Theater Schmeater, 12th Avenue Arts and Chef Nordo’s Culinarium.
R.I.P.: Rep artistic director Jerry Manning; ACT costume shop director Carolyn Keim; The Cabiri co-founder John Mullally.
Misha Berson: email@example.com